Archer’s BBQ Downtown Location Set to Close Tomorrow

Archer's Barbeque, 408 S. Gay Street, Knoxville, February 2016

Archer’s Barbeque, 408 S. Gay Street, Knoxville, February 2016

It’s been a short ride for barbecue on Gay Street. While locations continue to operate with apparent success on the south end (Calhouns) and the north end (Sweet P’s) of uptown, there will no longer be a dedicated barbecue restaurant in the center of downtown. Opening only last February, the business had a short run.

I contacted owner Archer Bagley, to ask about the situation and he confirmed that Wednesday will be the last day of operation for the downtown location. It is the downtown location only that is impacted. He told me, “Archers BBQ will be closing Archers BBQ Downtown on Wednesday, November 23rd. Archers BBQ loves Downtown, our Downtown neighbors and landlord, but we wanted to focus on locations that better fit into our fast casual, family oriented concept. Archers BBQ will continue to serve the Best BBQ that we know how at 4 Knoxville locations: Bearden, Karns, Powell and West Knox.” He also said the hardest part was telling his employees they would lose their jobs.

So, the question of what didn’t “fit” remains, but it is true that this location was substantially larger than their other locations and that casual observation revealed much larger crowds at lunch than evening hours. One difference there is that other locations served alcohol and that is a large profit base for restaurants. Other retailers have made it clear to me that income needs to be steady for more than a few hours in a space as expensive as a large space on Gay Street can be.

I do think it leaves a hole in what we have downtown. It’s not only the fact that barbecue is now missing, it’s more the quick lunch option. There are others, of course, from Frussies to Market House Cafe and some others, but having quick lunch items are a necessary part of a downtown with many office workers who don’t have the luxury of a sit-down lunch.

Operating a restaurant is always tough. Operating one in downtown Knoxville is, at least in recent times, highly competitive. We can’t all eat out all the time, but if you have a restaurant you really appreciate, I’d encourage you to support them. Their existence isn’t a given. And late in the year seems to be a time business with plans to do so, pack it in. Let’s hope we don’t see more this season.


  1. I’m probably in the minority, but i’d like to see at least a few fast casual type chains move into downtown Knoxville. Seems like the majority of the restaurants are more upscale/night out type places that are pretty pricey. Other similar size cities such as Columbia, Chattanooga, Greeneville, etc. have national chains & fast casual options in their downtowns, so why can’t we. Don’t get me wrong, I do love the great locally owned options, but can’t we also have mid priced, casual options like (Starbucks, Moes, Blaze, etc.) for the family & tourist crowd? It still amazes me that we don’t have a full size Starbucks location on Market Sq or Gay St. Every other similar size city in our region with growing downtown areas has these types of national retailers. So what gives?

  2. I never ate there mostly because the food was not cooked on site and I saw them bringing it in in the back of an open pickup truck……..not my idea of a BBQ place at all.

  3. The BBQ was sub par, the owner is rude, the atmosphere is terrible. Why would you eat here when so many other options within a stones throw away? Also, Sweet P is a few blocks away and it blows Archers away all day long. Open a Sweet P within a few blocks of every Archers and it will be the end of the very rude Penn’s BBQ business.

  4. Art Carmichael says:

    I think Michael’s right, that location is better suited for retail. Since, Archer’s trucked their food in, I’m pretty sure that location has no grease interceptor and no ventilation so, any new restaurant in thatbspace would have to install those or also cook their food elsewhere and truck it in.

  5. Sabrina DeVault-Greene says:

    I would love to see a truly vegetarian/vegan eatery in downtown.

    • Just curious — I do not know the answer, but are there enough vegetarians/vegans living and working downtown to support such an eatery day and night with the high Gay Street rents discussed above?

  6. They just don’t have very good BBQ. I mean, it’s all right….. But with so many excellent options downtown…… Just ok isn’t going to get my $$….

  7. Any idea of what would be a good fit for that location?

    • Chester Kilgore says:

      A bakery of the type we once had with Wade’s would be a nice addition. I think that if the bakery were to offer a full line of baked goods from bread to desserts would be a nice addition.

      • There used to be a really great full-service bakery on West Jackson, across from JFG Coffee, about 20 years ago. They also had sit-down and had coffee, tea, and soft drinks, and made sandwiches. I think the name was Blue Moon or something similar. I still long for a breakfast of their buttered fresh rolls and just-brewed coffee — with desserts to go.

        Maybe Wild Love Bakehouse on Central, Mer-Mer’s Bakery on North Gay Street, Rita’s Bakery in Fountain City, VG’s Bakery in Farragut, or some other such existing business would consider expanding to the downtown area. Can’t hurt to wish or hope.

    • Retail. Maybe a men’s clothing store.
      The proximity to Mast would be good for nearly any retail.

  8. I don’t think anyone could open up a dining hall that big, truck some food in from the burbs, and be a success on Gay Street.
    And I’m okay with that.

    • Chester G. Kilgore says:

      My thoughts exactly. And the bright lights and sterile atmosphere were not at all helpful, as has been pointed out previously..

  9. We have quick lunch options at First Tennessee Plaza! Come on down for Best Bagel, Brown Bag, Downtown Deli or Prime Time Hot Dogs!

  10. Stopped in yesterday to pick up carry out for dinner. It was empty as usual around 6:30. The evening business was far too slow I think. The atmosphere in the restaurant is not conducive to patrons wanting to “hang out” and eat in the evening. And, with all the options available downtown, I guess the carry-out business in the evening was insufficient as well. Too bad. I think they have the best quality BBQ, and will be missed.

  11. Chris Eaker says:

    What if the French Market moved down there? Would that work for them? Seems like they’d prefer not to be associated with Dover anymore.

  12. Incredible BBQ, I will miss it.

    However, I talked to the owner about my prediction that this would happen and why months ago, and he didn’t heed my warning.

    The vibes/decoration/etc were terrible. It felt like walking into a cafeteria or something, no charm, not very quaint. Example: the lights were extremely bright and never turned down for dinner time. Any restraunt manager knows they teach you to do this your first day on the job.

    Overall it was a great place for lunch but not a destination for people going out to dinner, just lacked the atmosphere that people are looking for when they want a night out downtown

  13. BBQ not my idea of a nice sit down dinner. Would love to see a classic French, Mediterranean or Italian restaurant with inexpensive to moderate prices. Something not so upscale as to be reserved for special occasions, but with a bit more sophisticated palate than perhaps a college student survives on.

    • Emilia fills the niche for a classic Italian restaurant. I personally would love to see a nice Mediterranean restaurant.

    • Never going to happen. We already have Mediterranean (two shops) downtown. We have Italian (two shops) downtown. Their prices range from low to high.

  14. Hannah Houser says:

    Sad to see them go, but I always thought this space was too big for their purposes. I’ll still visit their Bearden location because their BBQ chicken is my favorite in Knoxville.

    • Stewart Smith says:

      Yes I too am sad to see them go. The chicken was the best. We ate there often on Saturday’s for lunch. I remember commenting that I hope they can stay in business. I could not understand why there was hardly ever anyone there.

  15. Art Carmichael says:

    TBH, Archers’ ‘cue was okay but Sweet P’s is just a few blocks away.

    I live across the street from the Downtown Archer’s location but I only ate there twice. It was fine and, if it were the only BBQ place Downtown, I would have probably eaten there more often but I couldn’t see passing up going to Sweet P’s, to eat at Archer’s, just to save a 5-minute walk.

    • Absolutely correct!

    • I agree, Archers was not really that good IMHO. I live a 3 min walk from there, had tried them for take out and was not impressed. Sweet P’s is amazing.

      To the original post, we do need a few more quick/ecomomical lunch places on that end of downtown – not so many sit down places.

      or a great Thai or Dim Sum downtown!!!!!

      • The only problem is how we are going to get that with the exorbitant prices of rent downtown. Kaizen has certainly helped fill a bit of the Asian hole downtown but we could use more. A good authentic Chinese place, Thai food. Maybe even Knoxville’a first ramen shop. I think it will take an investor to achieve any of those. The price of rent and uncertainty of business will scare the average small business owner away.

  16. I am a little confused. We still have BBQ downtown. Seeet P’s not only serves a delicious barbecue, they are also very quick for lunch (even faster than Archers). And I am hoping they are here to stay cause their food is delicious.

  17. Unfortunately, their lack of evening business (on my drive bys, more often than not, not a single customer) was only highlighted by the happy crowds, both outside on the patio and inside, of Babalu right next door. It’s really sad that they could not draw more business in downtown — their food is really good, and I’m glad that the Bearden and Powell locations will not be affected.

  18. Aaron Thompson says:

    Bummer! We eat at that location two to three lunches a week!

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